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Robin Knight

Robin Knight

Executive Director for Development

A True Knight

The UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science celebrates the life and legacy of Robin Knight

The college lost one of its most dedicated advocates with the passing of Robin Knight, executive director of development for the UCF Foundation. Knight left an indelible mark on all who had the privilege of knowing her. Though her light may have gone out too soon, her spirit will always shine brightly at the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Her impact on CECS is an enduring one. Knight laid the foundation for partnerships that gave faculty the funding to advance their research, and the resources to give students an exemplary education. Initiatives not guided or shaped by Knight in some fashion are few and far between.

Her most meaningful legacy, however, lies in the impact she had on people. Always one to put others before herself, Knight was a true friend to all who knew her.

“Robin Knight was many things to me. A former boss and professional mentor for certain, but above all, she was a dear friend. From the moment I started working on her team in the Fall of 2016, I felt welcomed, respected and valued,” says Francesca Sagliano, the former alumni engagement coordinator for CECS and the current director of engagement at George Washington University. “I will forever be grateful to Robin for the faith that she placed in me, and for helping to guide me to where I am now in my career. She was incredibly generous, funny and empathetic to all those around her.”

Carlee Thomas, senior director for advancement at the UCF College of Medicine, has known Knight since they first started together at the university in 2008. They connected instantly the day they met, sharing similar values and career paths as development officers for the UCF Foundation. She looks back fondly over their friendship of 15 years filled with Knight’s signature stories, the lavish dinners she would prepare for her friends with the skills of Food Network chef, and birthday parties for their sons, who are only a year apart.

“She oftentimes would spend time just listening and offering great advice and counsel,” Thomas says. “She really had a big heart for everyone, and especially for her friends, and just wanted the best for everybody.”

Thomas adds that Knight poured that same caring and passion for her coworkers, friends and loved ones into her role at the college.

“When you work in a place for such a long time, it does become a part of your brand and who you are. And so that definitely happened for her,” says Thomas. “She loved all of her colleagues in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. She was very passionate about the work that she was doing, forging such great partnerships with donors who did wonderful things with industry, and moving relationships forward.”

A Knight in more than just her name, she worked relentlessly to ensure that those who bleed black and gold would always have the opportunity to reach for the stars.

“Robin wore many hats for the university, CECS and the dean. She made a difference to the university. She made a difference for the students,” says Tim Kotnour, industrial engineering professor and director of the Engineering Leadership and Innovation Institute at UCF .

Knight was instrumental in establishing eli2, one of the most successful initiatives at the college. The program helps students hone their leadership skills, giving them the training they need to deliver world-changing solutions in their future careers.

“Robin worked with industry to help them see the need and to gain their support. In addition to helping secure the funding for the eli2 Maker Spaces, she project-managed the building out of the facilities,” Kotnour says. “She didn’t need to do this. She had plenty of work on her plate. She did this because she knew what it would mean to our students. She also helped us get many of our speakers for the Leaders Up Close series.”

Knight also played an integral role in developing and maintaining partnerships with the corporations that invest in excellence at the college. Pegasus Professor Zhihua Qu from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who worked with her in developing these relationships, says Knight was dedicated to the success of CECS and its students.

“She worked tirelessly in enhancing the relationship between UCF and its industrial partners such as Duke Energy, Lockheed Martin, Texas Instruments, Siemens, L3Harris and others. She was instrumental in attracting funding for the Maker Space, the Lockheed Martin Cyber Innovation Lab, Siemens Digital Grid Laboratory, unmanned autonomous systems lab, data analytics lab and senior design days,” Qu says. “I worked closely with her on a number of these endeavors, and she was gracious in facilitating the interactions between external partners, CECS departments and our faculty.”

Although Knight raised millions of dollars for CECS throughout her career, nothing was more valuable to her than putting her family ahead of her work. She doted on her son, Ian, who started his senior year in high school this fall. A GoFundMe account has been set up for him, and the family is welcoming gifts to support him through his last year of high school.

“I know her proudest achievement was her son, Ian, and she dedicated all of herself to being the best possible mother to him,” Sagliano says. “In my last conversation with her, just a few weeks before her passing, she spent much of that time sharing with me all that he had been up to and how proud she was of him.”